Where would you be without your smartphone, your iPad or your favorite tablet by your side?

It’s been said by many that they would rather leave their home or office without their wallets than without their electronic devices. You might relate: The first thing you reach for when getting ready for the day is your smartphone.

Whether or not you agree with how some are attached to their devices — and lost without them — you no doubt appreciate the advancements in technology and how industry specific software can help you with your business.

Carpet cleaning, disaster restoration or both… there are tools in the market to help you schedule jobs, market your services, get paid quickly, organize your client list and much, much more.

Cleanfax regularly reviews with industry software suppliers what they bring to the marketplace so you can make the right decision for your business.

This article isn’t about product promotion. Rather, it’s about making sure you know what is available to you, our valuable readers.

Specific marketing

It’s important for small business owners to keep in mind that the customer database can be an excellent tool for generating targeted marketing campaigns.

“Not every customer is someone you want to market to,” according to Joe Kowalski, chief executive officer (CEO) of ServiceMonster. “The ability to focus your marketing efforts on your best clients is essential, as is the ability to track the effectiveness of each campaign.”

The biggest benefit of using a software platform is letting the data drive your decision-making process. “Gut feelings can be right or wrong, but data doesn’t lie,” Kowalski added

Besides helping with marketing, ServiceMonster is a field service software platform founded in 2003 that offers customer management, order management and scheduling. ServiceMonster also offers marketing features for tracking campaigns, sending direct-mail thank you and reminder cards and calculating returns.

Visit www.ServiceMonster.net for more information.

Booking the job

For carpet cleaners, filling up each hour of the day is important. A calendar peppered with just a few appointments means less profit for you, the business owner.

A common malady to the carpet cleaning industry is how often potential customers call the office but either receive no response or are asked to leave a voice message. Then when the person responsible for calling back and scheduling the job makes the attempt, he or she finds that potential customer is not available and the inevitable game of phone tag begins.

A solution? Making sure your website has an online scheduling tool that gives your customers the ability to make their own appointments. Convenience like this means you won’t miss those valuable jobs that often go to the first company to answer the telephone.

Steve Mastio of BusinessBridge Inc., which operates the “FittleBug” online scheduling tool, believes in “empowering” the customer so they are in control.

“It offers carpet cleaners a value proposition that empowers their market to book appointments 24/7 in real-time,” Mastio said. “And if you use ServiceMonster, the calendars automatically sync. With total control of your pricing, times and work schedules, you can run one or multiple trucks. Trucks can even be assigned to unique zip codes. New features include hidden travel charges capability built into unique zip codes, a social media referral tracking tool, instant promotion and specials, even Deal-of-the-Day functionality.”

Mastio offers a free demonstration of Fittlebug. You can see this at www.BusinessBridge.com.

Keeping it organized

Managing the many facets of a carpet cleaning or restoration company can be a challenge for business owners.

The old days of receiving telephone calls, flipping through a paper calendar and writing appointments in pencil are over. We are comfortably entrenched in an electronic world.

To make managing your entire cleaning business even easier, 25 years ago Thoughtful Systems created “Scheduling Manager.” Tools like this help you to become more efficient and save time and money with appointment management, job scheduling, route optimization, maintaining accounts receivable and payroll efficiency.

“You want to be able to allow technicians to view jobs, get directions, create invoices, take pictures and more, all from the field,” according to Murray Gordon with Thoughtful Systems.

“We continually update the software, improving it in response to users’ requests,” said Murray.

For details, visit www.ThoughtfulSystems.com.

Besides scheduling and organizing jobs, keeping track of inventory is important. Think of the money spent on equipment and tools over the years, and how missing just one piece can not only add to replacement costs but also down-time as figure out where it went.

A solution? “Imagine having detailed information of the usage of each piece of equipment on job site and never having crews forgetting equipment or tools,” said Aminur Rahman, senior engineer with Invisi-Tag LLC. “All these problems are eliminated with the use of small, inexpensive and easy to install RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags and your smartphone.”

RFID tags installed on each piece of equipment work in the background with little employee involvement, Rahman said. “These RFID tags work without batteries and rely on energy created by a RFID reader. This reader is simply controlled via your smart device and the push of a couple of buttons on an app.”

He compared it to “tiny employees always working, without pay to track and record equipment. Creating checklists and always marking the correct boxes.”

With this type of tracking, costly errors can be avoided, adding more profit to your company.

For more information, visit www.Invisi-Tag.com.

Content management

Many restoration companies clean and restore contents, and keeping track of inventory can be a huge challenge without a proven system in place.

In fact, a system that lists and manages contents can be a marketing tool, as it provides peace of mind to both insurance companies and clients.

That’s where software such as Assured PackOut becomes a solid business building tool. “Crews using our iPad app to take a photo inventory can get pack outs done twice as fast,” according to Brian Cannon, president of Assured Software. “The photos have protected contractors from costly property claims. Contractors also found that professional reporting and the chain of custody system has saved hours of admin time and impressed adjusters.”

Something new is coming from Assured Software soon. “This year we will be releasing a new affordable job management solution that includes profit margin monitoring and a mobile app that communicates job info fast. Contractors win jobs by showing adjusters how the system ensures that everyone on the job is more responsive and that the job tasks are documented and done right.”

To learn more, visit www.AssuredConnect.com.

Proven tracking

When evaluating the need for job management software, you must first understand why you are looking.

If your profits are low, you are losing project details and your job costing practices are non-existent. All the while, you have more work than you can handle. Then your company is ready for practical job management software, according to John Wigginton of Service Software LLC.

To help companies overcome these common obstacles, his company created RestorationManager.net, a job management software tool that provides a CRM with financial tracking for your sales team, job management tools and a robust reporting tool to help you analyze your business practices. With integrations with popular estimating and accounting software, Restoration Manager provides a solid foundation for you to build your business.

“A few years ago, I had an employer who said: ‘We have a $10,000 black hole every month.’ It took me a while to figure out he was saying the company was losing $10,000 each month to preventable expenses.”  Restoration Manager could have helped solve that problem.

For more information, visit www.RestorationManager.net.

Getting paid

Let’s not forget the value of actually collecting on the job when work is complete.

There are many ways to get paid, from receiving a check on the job to invoicing to electronic payments.

Pete Fornasiero, mobile payments consultant with PayAnywhere, knows how important it is to use an application and credit card reader that is easy to use and, most important to most business owners, gets the money into the company’s bank account fast.

“You need to be able to utilize a tool that allows you and your employees to take payments instantly at the job site, getting you paid faster,” he said.

How fast? “The next day fast,” Fornasiero added.

For more information, visit www.PayAnywhere.com

Choosing what’s best

Each business owner and each company’s requirements will be different.

Analyze what you need to become more efficient and profitable and choose industry software that will help you realize your goals.

We live in an electronic world. There will be more tools and options available on a continuous basis as technology advances. Cleanfax will keep you up-to-date on what is available.